Last Wednesday the Kenyan Government signed a $2.7 million (Sh191 million) contract with Tyco Telecommunications to fund a survey on the construction of a fibre-optic link to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The US-based firm is to undertake a four-month mapping of the Indian Ocean to determine where a fibre-optic cable could be laid. The cable will be known as The East African Marine Systems (Teams). The Kenyan government through Telkom Kenya and the UAE government, through Etisalat, have entered into a memorandum of understanding for the construction of Teams.

Kagwe argued that the current cost of bandwith is too high and is driving outsourcing companies in the country out of business. It currently costs Kenyan call centres over 30 times more to transmit data than it costs Indian rivals.

"We are talking about real jobs here and that is why this measure has to be taken," said Kagwe. He, however, said that this is only a temporary measure as bandwith costs are expected to come down significantly with the coming of the fiber optic cable expected to be completed by early next year. The submarine survey is scheduled to start in February and will last for about two months after which tendering process for the undersea cable will commence.

Permanent Secretary, Dr Bitange Ndemo, explained that a separate company (a "special purpose vehicle") would be created to manage the cable. The government is expected to own 40 per cent of the project. The tender process for procurement of a financing consultant is ongoing. The financing consultant, who will be known as the 'lead arranger', will be responsible for promotion of the project to potential private sector investors. Telkom Kenya will hold the Teams project in trust for the Government until the company that will manage the project is registered.

The East African Standard